Air Force 14


Coverage: ESPN2

5:00 PM ET, December 27, 2010

1 2 3 4 T
AFA 3 3 0 814
GT 7 0 0 07

Top Performers

Passing: T. Jefferson Jr. (AFA) - 117 YDS

Rushing: T. Washington (GT) - 28 CAR, 131 YDS

Receiving: C. Demerath (AFA) - 4 REC, 48 YDS

Air Force-Georgia Tech Preview


Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson admits there probably won't be too many passes thrown when his team faces Air Force in the Independence Bowl.

The nation's top two rushing programs will be on display as the Falcons take on the Yellow Jackets in Shreveport, La. on Monday.

Georgia Tech (6-6) ranked first in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 327.0 rushing yards per game while Air Force (8-4) was second with 317.9 yards. Both teams run an option offense, with the Yellow Jackets using a spread version and the Falcons utilizing the triple option.

The teams combined for 299 pass attempts.

"I don't think there will be a lot of passes thrown in this game," Johnson said. "Maybe more than people think, but there won't be a lot."

Johnson and the Yellow Jackets, however, could be without their most versatile threat. Quarterback Joshua Nesbitt broke his arm against Virginia Tech on Nov. 4 and it's uncertain if he'll be ready to play. Sophomore Tevin Washington has filled in, but he hasn't been as productive.

In nine games, Nesbitt, a first-team All-ACC selection last year when the Yellow Jackets won the conference, is second on the team with 737 rushing yards and a team-high 10 touchdowns. He's also passed for 674 yards and seven scores.

Washington, meanwhile, rushed for 289 yards and three touchdowns while passing for 292 and two scores.

The team kept up its rushing total thanks to Anthony Allen, who averaged 138.3 yards rushing over the last four games after averaging 86.5 yards over the first eight.

Still, Allen wasn't able to do it all. Georgia Tech lost four of its last five games, including a 42-34 loss to Georgia on Nov. 27. The Yellow Jackets averaged 31.9 points in their first seven games compared to 20.6 over the final five.

Nesbitt's return could help the offense, but when the team began practicing for the bowl game, he had yet to be cleared by doctors.

"If he could get out there that would be an added bonus, but we are not going to put him at risk to see if we could get him out there for one more game or series," Johnson said.

Regardless of who starts at quarterback, the Yellow Jackets will be without leading receiver Stephen Hill, who was one of four players declared academically ineligible Friday. Hill had 15 receptions for 291 yards and three touchdowns.

It may not matter who is directing the offense if the defense doesn't improve. The Yellow Jackets gave up 23.1 points over their first seven games compared to 30.4 over the last five after the team entered the season trying a new defensive scheme.

Starting safety Mario Edwards, who ranks third on the team with 68 tackles, also was among those declared academically ineligible.

Johnson announced Sunday that starting defensive end Anthony Egbuniwe and reserve defensive backs Louis Young and Michael Peterson won't be allowed to play until the second half because they missed a team curfew.

Georgia Tech, which has lost five straight bowl games and needs a win over Air Force to extend its streak of consecutive winning seasons to 14, might feel more comfortable facing an offense similar to its own.

Johnson certainly has shown he is capable of getting teams ready to face the Falcons. He coached Navy between 2002-07 before being hired by the Yellow Jackets and his teams won five in a row over Air Force before he left.

"It might (help)," Johnson said, "but it helps them as well because they have familiarity with me and the team."

Unlike Georgia Tech, Air Force seems to be peaking at the right time. The Falcons have won three in a row by a combined score of 125-65. They closed the regular season with a 35-20 victory at UNLV on Nov. 18.

Air Force is led in rushing by junior Asher Clark, who ran for 1,001 yards and five touchdowns. Quarterback Tim Jefferson has a team-high 15 rushing touchdowns and 769 yards on the ground.

The Falcons also could have another threat if Jared Tew is be cleared to play. He suffered a broken fibula against San Diego State on Oct. 16 after rushing for 540 yards and three touchdowns in seven games.

While Tew's situation is uncertain, Air Force will enter the game with confidence knowing coach Troy Calhoun will be with the team for the foreseeable future.

Calhoun, who denied rumors he was a candidate to coach the Denver Broncos, signed an extension that will take him through 2015 with a compensation package that will have him earning more than $1 million per year.

"Naturally, we are exceptionally happy that Troy is continuing his commitment to the Academy, our program and to our cadet-athletes," director of athletics Hans Mueh said in a statement. "We love what he stands for, his leadership, passion for the Academy and the tireless work ethic he and his staff display."

Air Force played in the Armed Forces Bowl the last three years, defeating Houston 47-20 last season. It played in the Independence Bowl in 1983 and '84, winning both times.

Georgia Tech is 3-0 against Air Force, although the teams haven't met since 1979.


Passing Leaders

K. Pearson57.995771
N. Romine54.55501
J. Thomas47.6959103
T. Byerly70.012500

Rushing Leaders

J. Owens1437355.14
K. Pearson1013703.74
J. Thomas1086255.83
Z. Laskey1205955.05

Receiving Leaders

J. Robinette2547519.01
G. Brown2234215.55
D. Smelter1841823.25
D. Waller818122.62